Several Christian churches have answered a call to pray for the return of the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers who were killed in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
The two were killed in battle and their bodies held to ransom by Hamas to use as leverage in negotiations with Israel. After the incidents, public celebrations were held in Gaza and Ramallah. Hamas has demanded the release of security prisoners from Israeli prisons to return the bodies to the soldiers’ families
With the consent of the Goldin and Shaul families, a petition went out to the Christian world last week calling for prayer for the return of their bodies. Amit Barak, an Israeli-Christian relations consultant, volunteered to help organize the initiative.
“Approximately 30 churches and Christian organizations have signed on so far,” Barak told Breaking Israel News. “Many more have contacted us, expressing a desire to join in. This cause is universal, common to both Jews and Christians alike.”
Barak noted that mait mitzvah, burying a dead person who has not been buried, is enormously important. Respect for the dead takes precedence over most other Torah commandments. This is derived from a verse in Deuteronomy.
You must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must bury him the same day. For an impaled body is an affront to Hashem: you shall not defile the land that Hashem your God is giving you to possess. Deuteronomy 21:23
Chesed shel emet (true loving kindness) refers to acts of kindness toward the dead. It is considered to be the highest form of kindness since the recipient can never repay it, so there is no underlying vested interest from the side of the benefactor.
“This respect for the dead is a universal human trait and it is certainly something Judaism and Christianity share. It brings us together in the most difficult of times. Churches from many denominations and from all over the world have contacted us but the majority have been Evangelicals from America,” Barak said.
The first to join the initiative was Pastor Becky Keenan of the Gulf Meadows Church in Houston, Texas. In an interview with GodTv, Pastor Keenan said, “There are certain human conventions that are universal. The return of the bodies of those who fell after an armed conflict is one such moral act. The families deserve to give a proper burial to their loved ones. To hold back their remains for political manipulation is obscene. We strongly support the International Day of Prayer and encourage decision makers to quickly return Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.”
Pastor Keenan’s participation is a glowing example of how Jews and Christians can come together in a compassionate and mutually beneficial relationship. Last year, her church was severely damaged in Hurricane Harvey. A group of Orthodox Jewish volunteers from ZAKA’s emergency response team came to help in the clean-up.
The day of prayer will be held on Sunday, September 23, one day before the General Assembly of the United Nations will hold a high-level plenary meeting on world peace.
“Goldin was part of a group of soldiers ambushed by Hamas two hours after a UN humanitarian ceasefire was brokered,” Barak said. “The UN took on the authority as a broker of peace to intervene and an IDF soldier paid for it with his life. The UN needs to acknowledge their responsibility and work to fix the results of their actions by pressuring Hamas to release the bodies.”
To join the call to prayer, contact Barak by email: firstname.lastname@example.org